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  • Applying for Your First Game Industry Job

    [09.01.06]
    - Samuel Crowe

  • Feature!Milestones

    Milestones are deadlines or a timeline that are agreed upon by the publisher and developer. Each milestone or deadline usually requires that a specific amount of the game be completed. Some milestones are set as alpha, beta, or gold. For the most part, each milestone that is met on time will be accompanied by a payment from the publisher.

    These payments will continue until the project is finished. The amount of money is determined before the project starts as well as the amount that will be dispersed throughout the milestones.

    Beta, alpha, gold. These are determined by the publisher and developer. In most cases, the alpha is a skeleton of the game with lots of bugs, but can offer the publisher an idea of what direction the game is going in.

    Beta is usually a playable and functional demo with bugs, but is feature complete.

    Gold (ideally) is the final product free from bugs. But in reality, Gold Date is when the final milestone has been met and the marketing and retailers are waiting for their product. Gold often refers to the Golden master CD that is created by the publisher and sent to the duplication house for copies.

    This is why some games have bugs when they are released. The game must be on the shelf by a specified date in order to meet the plans of the marketing staff of the publisher. Shortly after, you’ll see patches available for free. Sometimes you’ll hear of a Gold Date being pushed back, and in most cases, this is something that has been decided on by the publisher. The publishers are the ones who are paying for the game; so ultimately, they have the final say on how much extra time a developer can have. And this is largely based on what is complete at the time and if the game will sale well.

    You may hear of release candidates. These are “builds” that are close to gold but not yet there. They have some bugs and are for the most part fully functional. In some cases, release candidates are released as Gold Masters.

    Time from Gold to release. Marketing may want to hold the release for many reasons:
    • They want to release it co-currently with another product.
    • The space on the retailer shelf isn't where they want it.
    • Other reasons could be: season, competition, issues with the retailer, retailers holding it up, issues with the publisher, and supply issues.

    You should now have a brief but basic understanding of what happens at the top level of “making a game.” These actions have a profound impact on your future in the game industry. Simply put, if a developer can not get a game signed
    you don’t have a job. Same goes for consistently missing milestones. It’s not always developer related; sometimes the publisher neglects to pay milestone payments onetime, causing layoffs or morale to bottom out. Or the publisher may decide to pull the project and give it to another developer. Unless you want to spend your entire game career being laid off and ticked off, you better take some time to understand what happens at the top level. Mainly because these are indicators as to the future of the company you are working for. I’m not saying that you should consume yourself with these issues, only that you should be aware of them.

    You should try to avoid the politics of all of it as this can make your life a living a hell. As an entry level employee, you should never have to be involved with these issues. But as the thin line is there, it is your responsibility to keep up with the stability and future of your company.

    Ignore the rumors and naysayers who constantly complain. They are not worth your time, no matter how senior they are. Instead, do research for yourself; visit your publishers site when you have some free time, maybe once every 3 weeks or so.

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